According to reporting from Pacific Standard, California state lawmakers are considering removing the barriers that stand between undocumented immigrants and health care benefits. Currently, no U.S. state allows adult undocumented immigrants to access benefits through Medicaid. However, that could be changing.
Recently, the California State Assembly passed a bill that would grant Medicaid benefits to qualified applicants of all ages, regardless of their immigration status. The legislation is now headed to the California State Senate — which has yet to weigh in on the bill. Thus far, Governor Gavin Newsom has only given public support to an amended version of the law that would extend these benefits only to people who are between 19 and 25.
Understanding the Proposed Medicaid Expansion
One of the most important public health programs in the United States, Medicaid provides much-needed health coverage to low-income people. For the most part, these are people who would otherwise be left uninsured. Unfortunately, undocumented immigrants are largely excluded from Medicaid. In fact, undocumented children are only eligible to obtain Medicaid coverage in six U.S. states and in the District of Columbia.
The Center for Health Journalism notes that 44 states do not allow undocumented kids to apply for Medicaid. While California is one of the states that offer some additional coverage options for children, there are still huge gaps. Based on current estimates, there are as many as one million people in California who would be eligible for Medicaid benefits, but are denied them simply because of their immigration status.
The Trump Administration Could Try to Weaken State Level Protections
Should California pass the Assembly’s bill into law, researchers from UC Berkeley estimate that it will reduce the state’s total uninsured population by nearly 30 percent. This is one of the most productive reforms that the state could make. It should be noted that undocumented immigrants are far less likely to have health insurance than are U.S. citizens. As a result, undocumented immigrants in the United States are often denied care that they desperately need.
There are serious concerns that the Trump Administration will take measures to undermine California’s state-level effort to expand care. Indeed, President Trump has already taken action to punish immigrants who use basic social services. If the administration’s ‘Public Charge Rule’ is finalized, many observers believe that it will have a dramatic chilling effect on the number of immigrants who apply for the public benefits that they are entitled to receive.
We Advocate for Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles, CA
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